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Trauma is defined as any type of distressing event or experience that can have an impact on a person’s ability to cope and function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), further describes trauma as “an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions…[that are] characterized by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death.” Trauma is subjective, as every individual is different, and an experience that one individual may perceive to be traumatic, another individual may not. Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by ongoing stress (e.g., bullying, domestic violence, childhood neglect, etc.), one-time events (e.g., a violent attack, an accident, sudden injury, etc.), or life-changing events (e.g., sudden death of a loved one). The term addictive is defined as “causing a strong and harmful need to regularly have or do something.” Experiencing trauma elicits a chemical reaction in one’s body and understanding these physiological effects can help to illuminate why some people may perceive trauma as addictive.

Physiological Effects Of Trauma

Hormones greatly contribute to the potentially seductive effects of trauma. Research indicates that traumatic stress can result in increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to subsequent stressors, whereby the brain learns to associate certain stimuli with the traumatic event. Endorphins (the hormones in one’s body associated with feeling pleasure) also play an essential role in trauma exposure. An increase in the level of endorphins in the brain occur during trauma, and the levels remain elevated to help numb the emotional and physical pain of the trauma. Endorphins can provide a very attractive release for those experiencing chronic physical or emotional pain. But unfortunately, when this release is the only escape from the pain, our bodies naturally crave more.

Another addictive chemical release that can occur during trauma exposure is increased dopamine. When an individual experiences a surge of dopamine, it overwhelms the limbic system (the area of one’s brain that holds the reward and pleasure circuit) and causes the individual to experience extreme pleasure. This, in turn, can cause an individual to continue to seek a similar feeling of intense pleasure which reinforces one’s trauma desire. Trauma exposure can cause the release of a potent neurochemical cocktail, which can explain why, for some, trauma is addictive.

For Information and Support

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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